|Photo by Donnie Nunley|
My cousin published a statement on Facebook yesterday about her perspective on abortion. She asked for no comments or discussion on the post, but it got me thinking. Though she and I have opposing views on the subject, much of what she said is perfectly accurate:
“…sexuality and hormones are natural…”
“…people think you should just put the baby up for adoption if you don't want it, and I feel for people who are unable to have children, but unfortunately, if you look at the foster care system in the US, there are hundreds of thousands of kids every year who were not and will very likely never be adopted…”
“…no birth control option is completely preventative and it's unrealistic to expect humans not to have sex…”
“I do ask why any of us thinks it's our right that our personal beliefs should be forced onto anyone else.”
As I read her very thoughtful and logical presentation, it finally clicked for me why Christian pro-life proponents and non-religious pro-choice advocates can both have so many reasonable and compelling arguments, yet remain so polemically at odds with each other. Shouldn’t truth align people, rather than wedge them further and further apart?
But our disparate collections of truths divide us, I think, because our respective positions on issues like abortion arise out of two opposite focal points on why the problem exists in the first place. Christians look at the problem as an affront to the good and proper order of things. Those with a liberal perspective take the more pragmatic position of responding to a situation that well and truly exists, regardless of why it exists.
Christians are taught, rightly for the purpose of personal holiness and wisdom, to recognize that we live in a fallen world which is no longer in the perfect state as it was created by God. We believe in a standard of morality which leads to right living, healthiness in individuals and relationships, and an optimal order to life which makes everything work in a good and productive manner. We seek to “be perfect as I am perfect”, as Christ instructed us. So we start from this standard and attempt to apply it to our lives in order to make them (and by extension society) better:
“Thou shalt not kill”. We believe that God is the author of life, and if he has allowed a life to begin in a womb, ending that life is murder and opposed to God’s will.
“Thou shalt not commit adultery”. We believe that sex outside of marriage is unhealthy and opposed to God’s will for our ultimate good. We believe that sex is a good thing, and a gift from God, but only in its proper place. Sex is not a necessity of every person’s immediate life. Therefore if we refrained from sex outside of marriage, there would be no unwanted pregnancies.
“Thou shalt have no other gods before me”. We call an idol or lower-case god anything to which we give more importance than God and his will. This includes everything from money or fame to personal happiness and fulfillment. Therefore anything we choose to do to for our own pleasure in opposition to God’s will is sinful.
By these standards, abortion cannot be justified.
But if we disregard biblical ethics, which even God says we are perfectly free to do, we then have to view the world more like a momentary snapshot, a small slice of time in which things are happening for various reasons, known or unknown, and we must react to the way things are, because the only standard for how things should be is what each person wants for him- or herself in that system. Hence:
Sex is natural and enjoyable and it’s foolish to think people aren’t going to have it. Therefore, there will be unwanted pregnancies.
We must deal with the world’s problems as they are, not as we wish they were, because we can’t go back in time and change people’s choices.
One person’s choices may be very different from another’s but they are both equally credible and must be respected and validated.
The above are completely accurate, if you do not subscribe to a worldview that believes in an established and comprehensive moral standard.
As long as we continue to waste our time and energy battling each other over whose opinion is more defensible we’re missing the opportunity to seize upon and make progress toward the things we do share in common:
We both want women and children to be cared for, healthy, and supported.
We both want to see fewer abortions take place.
We both want a society where everyone is free to practice his or her beliefs.
Christian, if you found that last sentence offensive, I’d ask you to check your privilege. Remember, even God gives us the freedom to choose him or to not choose him. There are consequences to both choices, and he’s very clear on what those consequences are (see Deuteronomy 30:11-20), but we do still have that choice. If God has given us freedom to choose what we believe and how we live, what right have we to force our beliefs on anyone else?
Morality cannot be legislated, nor would we want it to be, because compelled faith is not faith, and if faith can be compelled, then any faith—be it Christianity, Islam, Satanism, or atheism—can be compelled by the preferences of whatever group holds the most power in a society.
For the last few hundred years in western culture that’s been Christians. But such is arguably no longer the case.
What is the answer to the abortion problem? I don’t know. Better minds than mine continue to struggle with that question.
But I do believe that there are good intentions and genuine concern for women on both sides of the issue. And focusing on how we can agree and where our opponents have valid points must be a better starting place than continuing to bludgeon each other as fools and villains.
Because neither side is ever going to win that fight.